What starts with the Beatles, ends with Johnny Cash and Patsy Cline and is brand new to Van Buren?
The answer is the first King Opera House Season of Entertainment, a partnership among the historic theater, Arts on Main and the city of Van Buren.
"Arts On Main took over the management of the King Opera House last year in an agreement with the city of Van Buren," explains Bill Ratcliff, manager of the event center and director of operations for Arts on Main. "The city wanted the opera house to have more active use and asked Arts On Main to take on the task of managing the facility. As part of that management, Arts On Main developed the idea of a 'Season of Entertainment' that would be presented at the King Opera House under the AOM umbrella. This is the first year."
The opera house dates back to 1891, when it was built as part of a block of commercial properties, Ratcliff says.
"In 1901, Henry P. King purchased the property and decided to convert part of the building to become an opera house in his effort to 'bring culture to Van Buren,'" he continues. "The opera house opened in October of 1901 with a production of the opera 'Faust.'"
Over the years, the opera house was busy with not just opera but traveling vaudeville shows and local events. In 1927, it became a movie theater -- named the Bob Burns Theater for "a Van Buren man who had done well in radio and movies" -- and it finally closed in the early 1970s as the building deteriorated.
"The city purchased the property, and in partnership with a number of local civic organizations, began the restoration of what they imagined the original King Opera House looked like," Ratcliff says. "The result is what you see today, an operating 315-seat theater hosting events ranging from concerts to weddings."
Ratcliff and Arts on Main understood that the opera house was already busy with "community theater, children's shows, business meetings, political forums and local concerts," so the goal of the Season of Entertainment was to "offer concerts by local and regionally or nationally known groups, comedy acts, tribute bands and more" that fit in with that existing schedule. Ratcliff thinks they've hit on both a scope and a size that will suit everyone.
"I think a season of up to eight shows is ideal. It leaves plenty of times for local events and even professional shows interested in renting the theater. I hope that we can continue to pull in nationally known shows that fit in our size theater and provide the River Valley area with great entertainment choices."
King Opera House
Season of Entertainment
March 25 -- Beatlemania 64: A live multi-media concert experience, the show takes audiences back to the Beatles' heyday in 1964 with a veteran cast of 15 years and all the hits from "Hard Day's Night" to "She Loves You."
June 3 -- "Dixie's Tupperware Party": Everyone's favorite Tupperware lady, Dixie Longate, has traveled the globe not only bringing creative food storage solutions to the masses, but also sharing laughs, freshness and inspiring messages of empowerment.
June 17 -- Larry B's Soul Funk Experience: Larry B's strong vocals take your mind back to old skool jams and can dive right into the new with his versatility of songs. He's not only one of the best voices around, but he and wife Hazel are also great entertainers.
July 22 -- The Remnants of Rock: Original band members that started out together in 1968, with the addition of the current keyboard player, re-create the music of the 1960s as authentically as possible, playing the top hits of the "sweet spot of the era," 1959-69.
Aug. 12 -- "The Cowboy Ain't Dead Yet": An inspiring, highly acclaimed one-man musical comedy about the most fascinating character to ever ride across the pages of history, the American cowboy.
Sept. 22 -- "Walkin' the Line": A tribute to two of the most influential and legendary country artists of all time, Johnny Cash and Patsy Cline, with Bennie Wheels and Lisa Irion.
Oct. 21 -- A mystery bonus show will be announced later.
Season ticket prices range from $150 for balcony general admission to $180 for reserved seating to $250 for VIP seating at kingoperahouse.com.